Meatless Monday: Use-It-Up Version

While eating more plant-based food is one great way to reduce your carbon foodprint, another is making sure you eat all the food you’ve got. Government estimates say that 30-40% of all food produced in America gets wasted, which means that all the energy, water, and land use resources used to raise that food get wasted as well. So reducing food waste is another major way to be environmentally conscious.

Therefore, last week I tried not to buy very much food and to use up what I had. For example, I had some pasta shells and bottled spaghetti sauce that I had gotten early in our sheltering at home experience. I also had a good amount of the healthy cottage cheese for making the spuds and curds I wrote about in an earlier post. However, since forecasters predict the temperature will hit 90 degrees this week, I’m not in the mood for making baked potatoes. So before it went bad, I decided to make a batch of spinach and cottage cheese stuffed shells for tonight’s Meatless Monday dinner.

It’s a relatively simple recipe, although it takes a bit of time. I boiled the shells and filled them with a mixture of the cottage cheese (about 3 cups), 2 beaten eggs (from Queen B Farms at the Cary Downtown Farmers Market), 2 bags of cooked fresh spinach with sautéed onions and garlic ramps (all from Parker Farm at CDFM), about a cup of shredded mozzarella left over from my last time making pizza, and maybe a quarter cup of parmesan, also left over from pizza. While ricotta is more traditional for stuffed shells, ricotta generally has about twice the calories and FOUR TIMES as much fat as cottage cheese…so I wanted to see if it made an acceptable substitute for health reasons. The main issue is that cottage cheese has a LOT of sodium, so I made sure NOT to add any salt to any of the other ingredients like I normally would. I did add a good amount of pepper and dried italian seasoning, however. Then I covered it with the commercial spaghetti sauce and cooked it at 400 for about half an hour to get everything hot.

My phone isn’t working right now, which means my camera isn’t working right now, which means I don’t have a photograph to show you. But it was a pretty dish with nice contrast between the white of the shells and the cheese, the green of the fresh spinach, and the red of the sauce.

I’m happy to report that it was a big hit with my family! I think the chunkier consistency of cottage cheese worked well, especially with the spinach and onion. I might miss the creamy ricotta without the vegetables, but this version is healthier and quite delicious and so I don’t think I’ll be returning to the ricotta version.

Combined with mixed salad greens (Parker Farm) in a viniagrette dressing and fresh organic blueberries from Altar Cross Farms (so sweet they need no added sugar), it made for a relatively healthy meal that combined Saturday’s Farmers Market purchases with using up what I had around. That makes it an extra-Earth Friendly Meatless Monday!

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